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[387] the outside, all lashed together. In this position we floated down the river. At the risk of being considered a coward, that regard for truth, which I am proud to say has always been a distinguishing feature of my correspondence, compels me to write that I sought the starboard side of the Queen of the West, where the thickness of four bales of cotton and four feet of wood might reasonably be supposed to insure comparative safety.

Silently we floated by, every moment expecting to hear the scream and hiss of shot and shell, every moment looking for the explosion of the ugly missiles over our heads. We were abreast of the batteries, and began to wonder at their reticence. We were at point-blank range, the night was fine, why did they not fire? The suspense was terrible. Presently some one sang out: “We are out of danger, we are below the batteries.” It is wonderful how this announcement affected us. Some who were crouching in abject terror became valiant in an instant. They mounted the hurricane-deck and snapped their fingers for joy. What cared they for rebel batteries?

It was at the mouth of Old River that we tied up Wednesday night, sending the De Soto to do picket-duty a mile in advance. The night passed quietly, and at daybreak Thursday we started up Old River, moving cautiously and calling at the plantations on the way. At nine o'clock we entered the mouth of the Atchafalaya. Four miles down the river a long train of heavy army wagons, driven by negro teamsters and guarded by a squad of soldiers, was discovered moving along the river-bank. We halted them, landed, and took possession. The soldiers escaped to the forest skirting the plantations. A detachment of Federal soldiers commenced the work of destruction. Mules were unharnessed and turned adrift, harnesses were thrown into the river, and a few of the wagons cut down and rendered worthless. The rest were left until evening. The Queen then moved down the river to Simmsport, four miles below, where Col. Ellet had heard of a rebel transport.

We arrived too late to capture her, but not too late to seize seventy barrels of beef belonging to the Valverde battery, which the Minerva in her anxiety to escape had left behind. This was destroyed by cutting the hoops of the barrels and tumbling their contents into the river. Colonel Ellet also captured a rebel mail and important letters and despatches at Simmsport, from one of which he learned of the occupation of Berwick Bay by Commodore Farragut. A few confederate cavalry were quietly watching our movements from the bayou to the rear of the village, but a shell from our rifled Parrott bursting over their heads caused them to hunt their holes. From Simmsport we moved down the river a few miles, and came in sight of another heavily laden train, which the negroes from the bank said also belonged to the Texas battery. Upon our approach the teamsters turned into the swamps just within reach of our shells. We had not men enough, scarcely twenty all told, to send them after the fugitives, and were compelled to fire at them from the boat. This we did till the shades of evening began to gather, with what effect as regards wounding and killing we were unable to learn. One wagon laden with ammunition and officers' baggage fell into our hands. This was burned.

Night was approaching, and we turned the steamer's prow again toward Old River, where during the day the De Soto had waited for us. Just as we had reached the bend where the wagons were captured, and where we intended this evening to destroy then, while the most of us were at supper, all at once we heard the sharp report of musketry, and immediately First Master Thomas fell to the deck seriously wounded; a musket-ball had passed upward, breaking his shin-bones, and making its exit through the knee. From one of the brass guns on deck we replied, and also fired several rifle-shots, but, protected by the levee, the rascals escaped injury. We abandoned our intention of landing, and kept on up the river, the Colonel muttering threats of vengeance.

On Friday morning a person came aboard the Queen and informed Col. Ellet that the firing the preceding night was done by the citizens living along the Atchafalaya, between its mouth and Simmsport. Col. Ellet accordingly determined to pay them a visit. He rounded to near Simmsport, and calling at the plantation of one Graves, who almost acknowledged that he fired at us, he allowed him time to remove his family and furniture, and then burned the house, sheds, and quarters to the ground.

The next plantation had, beside the dwelling-house and negro quarters, a magnificent sugar-mill upon it. These buildings were also burned.

The third belonged to an old gentleman, who, with his son and two daughters, carried on the farm and worked the niggers. One of the young ladies admitted that the brother had fired upon the Queen, and only wished the one had not been a dozen. She abused the Colonel, and berated the Yankees. When she discovered that her abuse failed to move Colonel Ellet, just as the flares began to curl around the house-top, like a brave and gallant girl, as she was, she sang, in a ringing, defiant tone, the “Bonnie Blue flag,” until forest and river echoed and reechoed with sweet melody.

Colonel Ellet, on leaving the Atchafalaya, announced his intention to go down the Mississippi and attempt to open communication with Commodore Farragut, below Port Hudson; but on reaching the mouth this intention was abandoned, and we turned our vessel into Red River. The air was as balmy as June in our northern climate, the trees were decking themselves with green, men were walking about the hurricane-deck in their shirt-sleeves as we entered the Red. We could not help commiserating poor Northerners, shivering before coal-fires and freezing--“on ice.” When we returned we would willingly have exchanged


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